Book Review: Social Marketing to the Business Customer

Despite all of the books out there about social media, most of them are pretty generic or focus on end-user 101s. So, when I heard about Social Marketing to the Business Customer¬†(by Paul Gillin and Eric Schwartzman), I picked-up a copy straight away — because I think the marketplace is desperately in need of solid B2B books offering practical social marketing advice.

The bottom line: I’ve already recommended this book to several colleagues looking to learn more about social media from a B2B perspective. Even if you’ve worked in the social media space for a while, this book offers useful pointers and case studies that will help you to think differently about how you approach B2B social marketing.

For me, three key things stand out about this book:

1. It acknowledges that social media isn’t the second coming. While, per the title, the book is totally about social marketing, the authors frequently remind the reader that there are other promotional tactics available to business owners, and points out that social media isn’t always the best set of tools to use. A little dash of reality is essential to a book on this topic, when everyone else sometimes seem to have the blinkers on.

2. It brings new case studies to the table. We’ve all heard about the obvious case studies a hundred times. Dell, Starbucks, and so on (disclosure: Starbucks is an Edelman client). If you’ve read a social media book, you’ve heard their stories and you’ve learned all you will from them at this point. They’re in this book too, but so are organizations like InnoCentive, the Oil Spill Recovery Institute and the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts. In fact, along with the examples spread liberally throughout the book, there’s a whole chapter consisting purely of case studies of eight diverse organizations using social media in diverse ways.

Why does this matter?

Because you’re much more likely to be able to relate to one of these companies than you are to the giant first movers.

What’s more, this book doesn’t just talk inputs, it talks outcomes – it lets you know the results of those companies’ social media activities. In doing so it provides the substance that you need to take those case studies to your management to help convince them that your ideas are good ones.

3. It’s written for the average B2B marketer. You don’t need to be a social media expert; you don’t even need to be a digital marketer. You just need to have a good marketing head on your shoulders to understand and get value from this book, as it starts you at the beginning of the planning process and takes you through to tool selection and measurement. That’s why I’ve recommended it to colleagues who are looking to learn more about this topic — because it will help them go from 0 to 30 in B2B social media marketing. Our digital team can help them along the rest of the way.

Of course, there are things I would change. The chapter on ROI makes a LOT of assumptions, and I noticed more grammar errors in the book than in most others that I’ve read recently. They didn’t detract from the value in the book, though — and the fact that there IS a chapter on ROI made me happy.

Who should read this: People looking to gain a basic understanding of B2B social media. If you’re in this boat, Social Marketing to the Business Customer is a worthwhile read.

Who should avoid this: Purely B2C marketers (although you may still learn some useful pointers) and people at an advanced level of knowledge in the B2B social media space.

What you’ll learn:

  • Use cases for social media in B2B marketing
  • How other companies have successfully used social media in the B2B space
  • How you can go about planning and optimizing your own activities
  • Ways of measuring the return on your investment
Dave Fleet
EVP Digital at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.